Report finds Grand Rapids is 13th least unionized metro in US

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A report from Construction Coverage found Grand Rapids is among the least unionized workforces in the country.

The union membership rate in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area is 5.5%, which is below the U.S. average of 10.3%. Of all large metros, Grand Rapids is the 13th least unionized in the U.S. The metro ranked 41 out of 53 large metros in the study.

At the bottom of the list was Austin/Round Rock, Texas, with only 2.3% of workers being union members. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, California had the highest membership rate at 22.2%.

Union membership in the U.S. has declined significantly over the past several decades — a result of more states passing “right-to-work” laws and changes in the composition of the U.S. labor force, the study said.

In 1979, 24% of U.S. employees belonged to a union. By contrast, only 10.3% of American workers were union members in 2019. In nominal numbers, union membership accounted for roughly 14.6 million workers in 2019, approximately 6.5 million fewer than the 1979 peak, the study showed.

Industry sectors with the highest union membership rates include government, transportation, utilities and construction. In each of these sectors, union membership rates are above the national average of 10.3%.

By contrast, employees who work in finance, professional services, leisure and wholesale/retail trade are far less likely to belong to a union. Union membership in each of these industries is below 5%.

Summary of data for Grand Rapids/Wyoming metro:

  • Union membership rate: 5.5% (10.3% nationally)
  • Union representation rate: 6.2% (11.6% nationally)
  • Workers who are members of unions: 27,793 (14,566,700 nationally)
  • Workers who are represented by unions: 31,531 (16,374,900 nationally)
  • Total employment: 509,023 (141,766,400 nationally)

Methodology

To find the most and least unionized places in the United States, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed union membership and coverage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and UnionStats.com.

In addition to union membership, the researchers also included statistics on union representation, which is the share of workers whose terms of work are collectively negotiated, whether or not they are union members.

Only metro areas with a population of 100,000 or more were included in the analysis. To improve relevance, metros were grouped into size cohorts based on population size: large metros (1,000,000 residents or more), midsize metros (350,000 to 999,999 residents) and small metros (less than 350,000 residents).

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